When Gabe was alone with his captors, they stripped him and shut him into the cell, which was more like an indentation in the wall. There was no window or even a little delivery door. Apparently, no one expected to be feeding him.
There was no room to sit, so Gabe would be forced to stand all day and all night. He leaned has bare back against the wall, closed his eyes and sang. When he finished, he started again. Then he worked on reciting the King’s law word for word, starting with page one. He had read it so many times he could just about do it. The song and the words had the same effect. He was experiencing his darkest night, but he was at peace. Despair no longer hunted him, stealthily encircling him, waiting for a weak moment in which to pounce. Despair had no home there with him. In its place there was hope.
Mother, on the other hand, had no hope or peace. When she felt she couldn’t stand the torment of not knowing any longer, she sent Angela to the Square to see what was happening. Angela sped out the door as fast as a falcon swoops towards its prey.
Stopping to catch her breath in the southeast corner of the square, she noticed a gathering at the well and went over to investigate. It wasn’t hard to discover what had happened. Everyone was talking about Gabe and the King.
Gabe’s river of words had spilled its banks. More and more people had gathered around the well. The guard returned from the prison and threatened them with arrest if they didn’t disperse. They slowly edged away. But the guard had just created tributaries, each person a rivulet meandering through the Square leaving sedimentary news that the King might be alive.
Angela didn’t speak to anyone. She felt detached from the scene, floating from pair to pair, listening in on the chatter. Angela’s feet touched the ground right in front of the Assembly Hall where her eyes transfixed on General Writ. He was standing on the porch of the Hall listening to the reports of two guards. One told of arresting Gabe, the other of talk that the King was alive.
Writ was noticeably flustered by the intelligence he had received. “Bring me a horse!” he barked at no one in particular, but a horse was promptly provided. Angela stood in the settling dust watching the galloping horse trace its way to King’s Hill and wondered what response the news would bring.
“He’s altered the plan!” Vulpine was irked by the revelation. “The arrest was to be made in secret tonight. He was to be kept in his cell without food or drink or sleep for two days before we announced his arrest and trial to the public. I want him weakened for that trial!” Vulpine realized what he had just admitted in front of the General and quickly recanted.
“Never mind. All the better. Let’s be done with him and the whole thing. We need to stop the spread of those vicious rumors he started. Send Phineas to announce his arrest and to warn people of his harmful, scandalous talk. He’s to announce that the trial will be in the morning.” General Writ gave a curt nod and set off.
Vulpine spoke to himself. “He’s already weak. He’s a boy. He never even went to school. I am a learned man. He can’t cope with my wisdom. He will fall before me, and I will prove to everyone Lord Vulpine is the king!”
Hooves frantically drumming the road was not an everyday sound in the village. Caleb opened the door to see who was racing past the inn, not once, but twice that afternoon. Smiling, he noted to those gathered that Gabe had Writ dashing madly about, trying to fix whatever damage had been done by his speaking in the Square.
The dust was flying again, and Angela backed out of the way of the speeding equestrian. She lurked in the shadows of the Assembly Hall on a reconnaissance mission to discover her brother’s fate. She scouted General Writ recovering his composure after his frenetic race to the Square. He disappeared into the Assembly Hall and reappeared with Phineas, who gestured to the villagers in the Square.
“I’m calling on every man and woman to be in attendance for a trial in the Square tomorrow morning. Our protectors have succeeded in capturing a dangerous criminal who has been spreading vicious rumors. King Vulpine himself will question the liar and expose his lies. Our village will not tolerate anyone sowing seeds of disunity. Do not believe his lies or spread them further. King Vulpine will lead us all to the truth!”
Angela hurried home with the report. The inn, though full of familiar sights and smells, felt odd and empty without Gabe. The families quickly gathered around Angela, and she shared all the details she knew.
Caleb took off to spread word of the trial. Other servants began filtering into the inn, feeling the need to be together at the loss of Gabe, who up until that day had seemed untouchable. For the first time in more than three years, they sang the King’s song all together in the inn.
Hours went by and the candles were lit, no one wanting to leave the inn or the feeling of strength that comes with numbers. Mother, however, went up to the family quarters with Tabitha, as usual, while the meeting was still going on.
Angela went to sleep reluctantly that night, not wanting the comfort of fellowship to end and to have to face the long, dark, unknown of the night alone. She dreamed she and Gabe were down in the Square, watching them build those wooden frames. Whack. Thwack. Tap. Tap. Tap. She stirred from her sleep. Her eyes shot open wide. Whack. Thwack. Tap. Tap. Tap. The hammering echoed through the village, sending another code. But what was its message?
She raced alone to the Square. She didn’t need an explanation of what she was seeing this time. There was a new wooden platform next to the Assembly Hall with a tall neck. From its bowed head swung a hangman’s noose. The gallows. She swallowed hard. She made a hasty retreat like a roach when a candle is suddenly lit. She felt exposed and wanted to hide. She wanted to bury herself in her bed under pillows and covers as she did as a child to feel safe from a thunderstorm. But she knew this was a storm she’d have to face.
The servants were sober in the morning as they made the journey together from the inn to the Square. The bell rang out its welcome, inviting everyone to the event. The whole village was turning out—mothers with still swaddled babies, old men barely moving with canes, the merchants, the farmers. Everyone with eyes and ears wanted to be in the square to see and hear Vulpine and his foe.
The bell’s ring slowed, sounding more and more distant as Gabe was brought nearer and nearer to the Assembly Hall. Vulpine had ordered him dressed in a plain night shirt that hung to his calves. His feet were bare, and his wrists bound behind him. One of Vulpine’s personal guards led him on a leash, like an untamed animal needing to be reined in.
Gabe walked without struggling. His head was up and his eyes were steady. A full day without any nourishment or sleep had accomplished an unexpected result in Gabe; he was steeled to prove the truth about the King.
Gabe’s leash was tied to a pillar on the Assembly Hall porch. His fellow servants amassed just in front of him and could see the calmness in his eyes. Angela and Gabe locked their eyes on each other and neither blinked as Vulpine was announced. Angela moved her lips to form the familiar phrase, “The King will make a way.” Gabe knew it was true—he just didn’t know if that meant release or peace at his execution.
Two guards opened the door to the Assembly Hall. With all royal pomp and pride, Vulpine stepped forward onto the porch. With a scepter in his raised right hand, he greeted his subjects.
“Thank you for your presence at this trial. We need your help in order to end, once and for all, the lies being spread by this weasely scoundrel. You, my beloved subjects, will act as jury. You will do your duty to denounce his lies and to order his treachery ended by means of the gallows!”
Cheers erupted from around the Square. Silence was present as well in the circle of servants before Gabe and in a one-handed woman clinging to her five-year-old son.
Vulpine spun on his heels to face Gabe, his robe twisting behind him. “Do you plead guilty to the charge brought against you yesterday at the time of your arrest; namely, the unlawful distribution of literature in the village?”
“I do,” Gabe answered evenly.
“Please repeat your answer again. Are you guilty or not guilty?” Vulpine was exceedingly pleased with himself and his immediate victory in the trial.
“Guilty.” Gabe spoke in the same even manner.
“Let everyone in the jury know that the defendant, Gabriel, has pleaded guilty.” Vulpine walked to the edge of the porch and egged on the crowd. “Am I not being proved correct that this is a scoundrel that should be done away with?” Vulpine relished the yells and cheers of the villagers.
“Now let’s turn to a more serious matter. You have been spreading vicious lies around the village. The most serious lie is that the previous King is still alive. Have you spoken this lie to anyone in the village?”
Gabe caught Vulpine’s crafty words. “I have not lied,” Gabe called out, his voice stronger, “but I have told many people that the true King is still alive.” A muffled cheer came from the small circle in the crowd in front of him. The servants may have been outnumbered, but to Gabe, that dot was like the North Star in a sky cluttered with constellations—all that was needed to lead him home.
Vulpine didn’t back down. “So you admit you’ve spoken this outrageous falsehood numerous times. A lie, I may point out, which amounts to treason.”
Gabe didn’t respond but kept his eyes on the North Star to steer him straight.
“This trial will then quickly come to a close, for from what you have openly admitted your only recourse is to prove this King is alive. I leave it in your hands. Can you prove it?” Vulpine was gleeful.
Gabe pierced the expectant silence. “I have seen the King!” The fullness of his lungs supported the words and carried them to the edges of the crowd. The words were met by gasps and guffaws. Vulpine quickly intervened.
“Another lie! You can’t keep wielding your slippery tongue without evidence. If you say the King is alive because you have seen him, then again I say to you, where is the proof? Show us the evidence that you have seen him.” Vulpine’s eyes narrowed into slits, arrow slits made for one purpose only, to destroy the enemy.
The North Star seemed to dim. In all the years they had listened to Gabe speak of the King, he had never offered evidence that the King was alive. They each had felt it for themselves, but how could it be proven?
Gabe searched the sky again for the words as he had done his last night with John. Instead of finding a solution, he spotted a star. A new star seemingly had appeared in the sky, bright enough to be seen by day. Gabe squinted and tilted his head back trying to get a better look.
Villagers started to follow his stare. They began pointing and whispering. The blood was rising in Vulpine’s face at having lost the momentum and focus of the trial. He brought everyone back to attention, shouting, “The defendant must provide evidence of having seen the King or be hung!”
The solution came. Gabe addressed his jury. “After it was announced that the King had died, a beautifully carved cabinet was brought to be kept in the Assembly Hall. Where did that cabinet come from?”
“The King’s throne room.” Everyone knew the answer. A chorus of voices responded, a cacophony of sound.
“It came from the throne room of the previous King, who is still the true King of the village.”
Vulpine burst again in his rage, “Where is your proof?”
Gabe remained as steady as a cat on its feet and continued his conversation with the jury. “And what was the one thing that was kept in that cabinet?”
“A plate,” the crowd answered eagerly, enjoying the game they were playing.
“Not any plate but a plate made out of solid pearl and trimmed in gold, the plate of a King.”
Vulpine had regained control of himself and now just rolled his eyes at Gabe’s antics. “Having had a cabinet and a plate does not prove the man alive nor that you have seen him.” A few chortled along with Vulpine.
Gabe ignored the interruption. Angela was beside herself. She was the only one in a thousand who knew what Gabe was doing. Her stomach flip flopped. She didn’t think she could bear the suspense of waiting to see the outcome. It was a horse race and her stallion had just come from behind and was pulling into the lead. Don’t trip now!
“The first time I visited the King on the hill, he showed me that plate and told me it was my invitation to sup with him whenever I wanted. I request that the plate be removed from its shelf where it’s been since the fire and shown to the jury as evidence.”
Knowing the whole village had shuffled past that plate time and time again to inspect it, Vulpine waved his fingers at a guard to bring it out. Waiting for the guard, Gabe again spied the golden star in the sky which seemed to have grown larger. He gaped at it along with half of the villagers.
Bellowing again, Vulpine restored everyone’s attention to the proceedings. He didn’t like Gabe speaking so much and wanted to draw this to an end as soon as possible.
The guard had brought out the plate. Gabe looked at the plate expectantly, but with his hands tied behind his back, he couldn’t touch it. His name had been there seven years ago. It had to still be there, right? He wondered if the fire could have seared off the writing. His hesitancy made Angela’s heart skip a beat. Taking a deep breath, she called out, “The King has made a way.” She quickly shrank into the crowd as guards advanced toward her, but the damage had been done. Gabe had regained his footing.
“I ask that a member of the jury be permitted to join us on the porch to examine the evidence.” Gabe was again as confident as a lion ruling his pride.
Vulpine was leery. “As villagers, the guards are part of your jury. I permit this guard here holding the plate to observe it for the jury at large.”
Todd, the guard, nodded at Gabe. He remembered the last time he had seen him, just before pushing John into the bonfire cage. He gave Gabe a questioning look.
Gabe eyed the seemingly approaching star and somehow drew on its energy. He lifted his voice and called out, “Please clearly tell your fellow jury members what is the only word written on the back of my invitation to visit the King.”
Vulpine shuddered and went pale. Todd carefully turned the costly plate over to reveal its underside. There was only one word there. “Gabriel!” Todd shouted it loud and clear.
The crowd erupted at Gabe’s name and so did Vulpine. He grabbed the plate and smashed it to the ground, sending fragments in every direction. He grabbed Todd fiercely by the throat as if by shouting alone he wouldn’t get his orders across. “Hang him!”
Todd was shaken, but fear of Vulpine’s wrath spurred him to move quickly. He untied Gabe and dragged him stumbling to the gallows. He slipped the noose around his neck while the crowd screamed and roared.
Vulpine stormed across the porch to knock Gabe off and cause him to swing to his death. As his heavy boots thundered their way to Gabe, an even louder sound split the scene.
An earthquake violently shook the Square. The terrified villagers were knocked to the ground and tossed about. The Assembly Hall split from its foundation and, toppling backwards, was shredded by the trees behind it. The whole square reeled. Crashes came from around the square as shops creaked and cracked and threw their stock. The long neck of the gallows snapped in two. Gabe slipped himself free from its grasp and stood steady on its platform. Vulpine was flung off the Assembly Hall porch, which splintered. The other servants of the King were still right in front of the remains of the Hall when the earth ripped in two and a sinkhole opened on the far side of the Square, swallowing hundreds of villagers, who disappeared under the earth before most had any idea what was happening.
When the tremors lessened and the stunned villagers regained their bearings, they began to stand to survey the damage. What they saw knocked them right back to the ground. The star had disappeared from the sky, and not only was Gabe dressed in brilliant white, but beside Gabe on the platform stood the King.
“The king is dead!” Phineas had scrambled over to Vulpine, lying prone on the ground. Seeing his chest still, he had made his final announcement to the village. He eyed the King and slunk away. Heading toward the hill, Phineas froze in front of the inn when he saw a few dozen people all dressed in white approaching him. When he recognized Robert, the good doctor, among them, his heart stopped and he collapsed in the road. They walked past his body on their way toward the Square, while the birds rejoiced above them.
In the Square, the villagers were on their knees before the King, more majestic in appearance and presence than they could have imagined possible. Vulpine, in comparison, had been a slug.
The servants, all now clothed in white, bowed in awe. Without a word from the King, the other villagers remained bowed to the ground and began weeping in guilt and fear. At the same time, a nightingale began to sing. A skylark alighted on the broken neck of the gallows and warbled. A dove perched on the platform and cooed. More birds began circling in the blue sky, adding their voices.
Angela was the first to pick it out. She recognized the birds’ song—it was the song of the King. She stood, a lone tree on the savannah, and sang with the birds. The servants began to cry tears of their own; the beauty of Angela’s voice and the lyrics of love washed their wounds. By the song’s end, they had been made whole.
Angela began the song again, and this time all of the servants stood and sang the King’s song. With one voice they praised the King, His love a banner waving over all of us, a beacon leading us out of our darkest night.
The King had made a way.